The Santa Monica Malibu Unified School District board has officially hired Dr. Ben Drati as the district’s new Superintendent.

The district announced plans to hire Drati in October and the board made the decision official at their Nov. 3 meeting.

Drati has worked for the Santa Barbara Unified School District since 2012 and said he would begin the meet and greet phase of his new job as soon as possible.

“I can’t wait to get started,” he said in a statement. “My first task is to go out and meet people at our schools and in the community. I am committed to keeping the interest of children as my highest priority. I will work collaboratively with the board, teachers, classified staff and parents, and commit to serving as a worthy ambassador of SMMUSD to the world.”

Former Superintendent Sandra Lyon left at the end of the 2015-16 school year and the Board hired two temporary replacements, Dr. Sylvia Rousseau and Dr. Christopher King.

While the two shared duties running the district, the district searched for a new full-time leader. The process included community meetings that gathered input from staff, employees and residents.

Stakeholders said they wanted someone with a trach record of leadership, experience working diverse interest groups and a focus on students. The Board specifically wanted someone that would follow-through on the ongoing work to close achievement gaps headlined by consultant Pedro Noguera.

In announcing Drati’s hire, the board cited his experience working on issues of equality and local funding. They said he has crated programs that emphasize diversity within school culture and helped create classroom environments that support youth.

“Dr. Drati is known as a strong, confident and collaborative leader who is deeply committed to improving the lives of all students,” said the release announcing his hire. “A board member from his current district described Dr. Drati as a person of great integrity, as well as a genuine and warm person. He went on to say that Dr. Drati accomplishes his job with careful thought, transparency and motivation. Another high-ranking district official commented Dr. Drati’s strong skills in creating positive working relationships with businesses and community organizations to support and improve the learning environment of the district.”

Drati attended high school in Los Angeles, earned an undergraduate degree in biochemistry and then doctorate in education from Fresno State.

King and Rousseau will serve through the end of the calendar year and Drati will assume the role on Jan. 1 of 2017.